|Premiere||World premiere: August 12, 1978; Internationale Ferrienkurse für Neue Musik, Darmstadt (Ger); Martin Goldman, viola|
US premiere: March 10, 2016; Roulette Intermedium, Brooklyn, NY (USA); Stephanie Griffin, viola
Stephanie Griffin, viola
A work from early in his career and during an extremely left-brained-heavy period in contemporary music history, Argoru IV on the page is dense with rhythmic and notational difficulties. Ironically enough, a young Singleton during this same period was also experimenting with improvisation in his scores. A fiendishly difficult work on the written page, to the ear Argoru IV is dramatic and expressively gratifying, especially for the performer.
One is moreover convinced that the bee hive of written difficulties in this work for solo viola is not about showing off its math, but really shows precisely what was heard in the composer’s head. Here notation controls everything, including rates of vibrato and even slight tempo changes. A section of notes approached via multiple grace notes is a choice over simply writing the grace notes out as regular rhythms… a subtle aid to the player’s expression.
One finds many factors in this early work that will appear in the other of his works throughout Singleton’s career. The tantalizing querulous first lick followed by silence is one. The playing with both audience expectations but also those of the musicians are there… for example the first two 8th notes of the piece are to be executed after an 8th note breath rest, not as a down-beated first 2 notes. Long tones (some very long) are typically contrasted with quick short ones. Contrast is the key. It is very deep into the work before pizzicato is called for yet one solitary forte pizz at 7 minutes in the midst of so much arco playing as a powerful effect… much like a single contrasting movement in the midst of Kabuki acting.
– Carman Moore